Gathering Unlimited

"The unlimited mix is primarily for new players, as opposed to collectors and old established players."

    -Richard Garfield, May 1994

Today a dear friend turns 27. And yeah, I know some may argue that its birthday is eight or nine days from now, as production delays made the delivery go past the official due date. I also know that USA technically passed their resolution for independence on July 2nd, not the 4th. And as celebrations go, today is the generally accepted one for the awesomeness that is "the unlimited mix".

Unlimited Edition was an unexpected friend, and one perhaps not so aptly named. The original idea was to let ten million Magic: the Gathering cards saturate the demand for the first year of Magic, after which it would be replaced by Magic: The Ice Age. But the game was a smashing success, and Magic: the Gathering sold out in weeks. Players demanded more, and so Wizards created the first real re-stock of the game, one made particularly for the players.

Magic was always a collectable game with rare cards. For the first edition, WotC founder Peter Adkinson wanted to keep the run at ten million cards to keep it exciting for collectors. But with the explosive interest in the game, Unlimited was set to throw availability into the mix. In order to separate it from the first edition, Wizards changed the black borders to white. And to make sure the cards would end up in the hands of players that needed them, Unlimited's print run was to be, well, unlimited. The white borders would signal that it was the "players' edition", while everything else - down to misspellings of artist names, lands on the rare sheet, and a confusing rule book - would be identical to the first edition. Unlimited Edition was Magic: the Gathering. No more, and certainly no less.

Shortly after the set hit the market, we saw the Gathering's first expansion in Arabian Nights. And with expansions in the mix, the idea of a "Regathering" core set quickly evolved. Regathering, later named Revised, would replace the original card mix just four months after Unlimited saw the light of day. In the end, the supposed endless print run would stop at just 35 million cards; while a solid 3.5 times the run of the black-bordered edition it was still just a fraction of the eventual demand (and of sets coming after it). More cards were initially ordered, but the printing was truncated to make room for new editions.

I have an undeniable affinity for Unlimited. After a few years gathering the cards, I finally completed the set last summer. That binder has since become a beloved coffee table book, and something I frequently find myself flipping through and marvel at after long days.

Let's take a look.

Could get lost on page one for a long time. Subtleties of the art and flavor, memories of games and old friends, and ideas of how to use these pieces to build something bigger.

Page two is somehow even more iconic. It's very doable to write single-card blagposts on every card on the page. That Lotus has seen some serious love btw, but it still casts turn one War Mammoth.

Jumping ahead a bit, we find this. Beware of Magic: the Gathering. Back in the old days, pages like these were the cause of moral panic and actual card burnings.

I often find myself looking through the binder with my two-year old. This is her favorite page. In particular the Dragon Whelp, but she's also got a strong liking for Drain Life, Drudge Skeletons and the Dingus Egg.

This is one of my own favorites. So many stories with these cards.

Strangely breathtaking. Flipping through, it somehow feels like handling actual artifacts, actual jewellery.

Can't even remember why I took a picture of this spread anymore. But it's Magic.
God damn it, Unlimited. Stop being so ridiculously awesome. 

This spread contains the only two cards in Unlimited to have the same card type and rules text today as they had 27 years ago.

Here's one.

And here's the other. It is strange to think only two out of 302 cards are without Oracle errata or rules text updates. A lot has happened with the game in 27 years.

Like here. Ask me a quarter century ago which card I'd want from this page, and I'll go for Two-Headed Giant of Foriys ten times out of ten. Not only is it the most awesome card on the page, Scrye #3 tells me that the Giant is $16 while the bi-lands are $6 apiece.

Don't even know where to start here. Probably with Oi-oi Boi or Doppeganger, but the flavor text on Wall of Bone is just pure norse black metal.

Fogies use analogue spreadsheets. Collecting this was a joyous journey.

It feels a bit strange to write the first post on the first "card mix" here and don't go deeper than this. I mean, Unlimited is the original game and would deserve a proper set review. But then again, I suppose proper set reviews wasn't a thing in the era of Unlimited. Not even checklists really were. So maybe just showing a few cards and celebrating its intent and impact is enough. After all, reviewing Unlimited is reviewing the game of Magic as an international hobby. And that is obviously A+. 

Happy birthday old friend, and thanks for spreading the Magic.


  1. Great collection! If anyone wants to read more about Unlimited, I shared my thoughts about it on its 25th anniversary here:

    1. Thanks Scott! Went back and re-read your post now, very nice :) And while we haven't played that much "Unlimited only" since you suggested it, there has certainly been sweet dabbling and tech with "A/B only" with the very same cards (save the border colors ;)).

      It also made me think a bit more about the print numbers of old sets circulating around the web. Almost all of the info is based on Stephen D'Angelo's (self-proclaimed) guesses from January 1996 on the sweet Crystal Keep website. They are not bad per say, but with more inside information floating around we could now calculate better numbers. E.g. Unlimted rares were probably closer to 17,600 than 18,500, and I think he's off by a factor 2 or more on Revised. This could be a very nerdy and number-cruncy post in the future ;)

    2. Scott yours was one of the first articles I read when I got back into the game in December 2018 after 21 years away. Loved your post. I too love Unlimited and have been on a quest for a full set since January of 2019. I have a long way to go but am loving every minute. Gonna go revisit your article now

  2. This is amazing! Thank you :)

    1. Thanks Matt! We should also plug our fellow Legionnaire Bill's journey towards completing the set, which I somehow forgot to do in the post. Anyone looking for more content on Unlimited and the journey collecting the set should check out the Unlimited Adventures blag on

    2. Awesome MG!!! Looking at your completed quest inspires me as I continue along on my own. Hope all is well Sir.

    3. Thanks for the plug also....your Contract From Below sits proudly in my binder

    4. Thanks Bill! Hope to keep following your adventure for a long time to come, the journey is awesome!

  3. Very nice Magnus! Great to see that you keep the cards in alphabetical order, and not by color! I have ordered my Unlimited set the same way :-) Cheers Koos!!

    1. Haha, yeah, after a lot of mental effort I eventually realized that that was the correct order for complete sets ;) My ALICE set is still by color, but I should re-sort that one in the near future :)


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